$40M for plastic surgery. Marijuana trailblazers. Connected kitchen partnerships.
In 2013, Coca-Cola entered the Myanmar market for the first time in 60 years.
One of the world’s most recognizable companies had to figure out how to pitch to people who’d encountered Coca-Cola only through grandparents’ memories or smugglers.
Coca-Cola had to re-establish itself as a safe, reliable, legal brand.
Education, transparency, and data
Similarly, startups today are building up the legal US cannabis industry from scratch. They’ll have to convince shoppers used to black market product that new brands can offer traceable ingredients, consistent doses, pleasant retail experiences, and reliably comfortable outcomes.
For example, startup CannaKorp (which presented at our demo day last year) emphasizes consistency and reliability in its Keurig-for-cannabis model.
Just as Coca-Cola had to hammer its “refreshing” impact in Myanmar, newly legal recrational cannabis startups will have to educate those shoppers who are new to the industry.
Here, “purpose > product” branding can be a powerful to teach new consumers about the different effects of different strains (as startup Eaze illustrates below).
As the legal marijuana industry blossoms, its impact will be far-reaching.
It’s no surprise that alcohol companies are worried about losing market share — in a landmark deal, Corona parent company Constellation Brands recently invested in cannabis to try to turn a threat into a tailwind.
We could see cannabis partnerships with food companies, vitamin and supplement brands, and even spas and gyms. Legalization will open doors for new lines of skin care products. Pet food could get into the game.
More broadly, legal cannabis will draw more attention to indoor farming technologies. Vertical farming startups have taken off lately, from Plenty to Bowery Farms, and growing cannabis demand could drive further investment.
The retail industry should also be taking note.
In cannabis, we’re seeing new a brick-and-mortar industry born amidst the age of e-commerce.
These new retailers can integrate data analytics from day one — inspired by the data per square foot model, perhaps.
Meanwhile, retail chains like MedMen leverage in-store iPads, limited edition product drops, and other on-trend brick-and-mortar strategies.
Going forward, cannabis could be well-positioned to take advantage of other retail trends. For example: in-store gardens, like those trialed by Whole Foods and Target, or personalized product suggestions, like those Sephora provides on in-store tablets.
So as retailers struggle to reinvent themselves, they may want to keep an eye on emerging cannabis strategies — that will focus on data, shopper education, and upmarket experiences.
And as cannabis brands grow, they may want to consider Coca-Cola.